Photo courtesy of Villanova University Athletics.
By David Cordova
Today marked the quarterfinals of the Big East Tournament and excitement was up in the air for all four teams playing in the afternoon session at the World’s Most Famous Arena, Madison Square Garden.
In the first game, the defending national champions, Villanova, would go up against a struggling St. John’s team that came off a hard-fought win against Georgetown in last night’s affair, 74-73. But in this afternoon game, there would be no close game for the Red Storm as the Wildcats, who are also ranked the No. 2 team in the country in the Associated Press poll, would dominate from start to finish.
The second game between both Seton Hall, the defending Big East champions, and Marquette, would be a much closer game. In the first half, the Golden Eagles seemed to have control of the game, but the next half would prove different, as Seton Hall would bring their patented toughness to lead them to a win.
These wins would pit both Seton Hall and Villanova together in a rematch of last year’s Big East championship game, in which the Pirates would end up winning in a stunning fashion, 69-67. Will this year’s game be a repeat for Seton Hall? Or will Villanova be the victor this time around?
This season, the Wildcats have had their number both times. On January 16th at the Pavilion, their home court, they beat the Pirates by thirty, 76-46. In the rematch on February 18th, in front of a sold-out crowd at the Prudential Center in Newark, the Wildcats would also win big, this time by a twenty-two point margin, 90-72. But now that it is playoff time, it is a different time of year and a chance to start anew. With NCAA Tournament hopes on the line for Seton Hall, this would be a chance for the Pirates to shock the world to avoid losing a third time.
For right now, here’s the results of today’s games:
Villanova 108, St. John’s 67
Villanova came out strong in the beginning behind Kris Jenkins, as he scored nine points within the first three minutes of the game to give the Wildcats a 9-4 lead, with 17:20 left in the first half. But St. John’s would stay close throughout the early part of the game, due to the shooting of Shamorie Ponds and Marcus LoVett.
However, the Wildcats would continue their offensive attack as they hustled for rebounds and played more aggressively than the Red Storm. Their torrid attack would bring them ahead to a fifteen-point lead, 25-10, with 9:06 left after a three-pointer by Eric Paschall. Then moments later, the Wildcats would bring their lead up to twenty, 38-18, with 4:12 to go in the half.
Also working in Villanova’s favor was that for most of the first half, they committed no fouls, and also took very smart shots. On the other side, St. John’s looked out of sync and did not have great shot selection, as they shot 25% from three-point range and 33% from the field towards the end of the half. The Wildcats would finish the first half with another three-pointer by Jenkins, as they would lead, 52-26, at intermission.
In the beginning of the second half, the Wildcats continued their torrid attack, as built their lead up to thirty-three, 61-34, with 16:30 left. Although the Red Storm tried to muster up a better performance, the defending national champions had already completed their execution on them.
DiVincenzo led Villanova with 25 points, Jenkins added 24 points and six assists and Paschall contributed 17 points and five rebounds. For St. John’s, LoVett and Bashir Ahmed led with 12 points in the loss.
Seton Hall 82, Marquette 76
The opening tip started off with both teams trading basket for basket in the first five minutes. Then suddenly, Marquette was off to the races, as they would end up leading 17-9, with 12:54 to go, after a three-pointer by Katin Reinhardt. But Seton Hall would get to within two, 19-17, with 8:55 to go, after a three-point play by Khadeen Carrington.
For most of the half, Marquette played very carefully and displayed good shot selection, as they would take a seven-point lead, 28-21, with 5:41 left after a floater by Luke Fischer. But then the Pirates went on an 8-2 run, and cut the deficit to 30-29, after a three-pointer by Myles Powell.
Then with 1:47 to go, Desi Rodriguez would hit a floater to bring them ahead by one, 31-30. But the Golden Eagles would not stay down for long, as they took the lead back, 35-33, after a dunk by Fischer, with 32.6 seconds to go. Then with 9.1 seconds left, Angel Delgado would hit a layup to tie the score at 35-35, in which the score would be at halftime.
The second half would start off the same as the previous half with both teams keeping up their competitive nature. Seton Hall would then play that pressure defense and would take a seven-point lead, 49-42, with 13:31 to go. Then the Hall would go on a 7-2 run to bring their lead to twelve, 56-44, with 10:45 left.
Marquette wasn’t as aggressive as they were in the opening half, as Seton Hall would take advantage of their deficiencies and go ahead by thirteen, 62-49, with 7:17 to go. The Golden Eagles would get to as close as seven, 80-73, with 13 seconds to go in the game. But the Pirates were able to make their free throws and close out the game to advance to the semifinals.
Carrington led Seton Hall with 19 points, Powell added 17 points and Delgado would contribute 12 points, 16 rebounds and nine assists. For Marquette, Andrew Rowsey, recently named the Big East Conference’s Sixth Man of the Year, led with 23 points and Markus Howard added 16 points in the loss.